14 Best Things to Do in Estes Park (CO)

Estes Park is a town of approximately 6,500 residents located in Larimer County in north central Colorado.

Located a few hours northwest of Denver, it sits amidst some of the most rugged and magnificent landscapes in the state. It is surrounded by state and national parks and some of North America’s most popular ski resorts.

The town is also rich in historical attractions, as well as a variety of dining, lodging and outdoor recreation options, including golf, hiking, fishing, horseback riding and mountain biking.

Here are 14 things to do in and around Estes Park that are worth a closer look in the area.

1. Glacier Canyon

Glacier Canyon Hiking Trail

It’s hard to stand out in a state so full of fantastic geography, but previous visitors agree that Glacier Canyon does just that.

Located in an idyllic valley in Rocky Mountain National Park, the canyon offers guests a unique perspective on how massive glacial movement shaped the landscape over thousands of years.

Many hiking trails of varying difficulty meander around the canyon. For nature lovers, rivers, lakes and streams are home to many wild animals and game.

2. Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park, Trail Ridge Road

Rocky Mountain State Park is one of Colorado’s most popular and frequently visited natural attractions. It offers visitors some of the most breathtaking mountain views they could possibly see.

The park stretches over 400 square miles, most of which are over 10,000 feet above sea level.

Trail Ridge Road is perfect for those who would rather enjoy it all in the comfort of a car. For those who love to get out into the wild, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, camping and backcountry backpacking are popular ways to spend the day.

3. Estes Park Golf Course

Estes Park Golf Course

For many visiting golfers, hitting the ball is one of the most enjoyable ways to experience the great outdoors, and Estes Park is home to several famous golf courses.

The 18-hole Estes Park golf course is over a century old and designed by two renowned golf course designers who have managed to incorporate natural surroundings into the 6,300-yard course.

In addition to well-manicured fairways, ample hazards and stunning mountain views, wildlife including elk, deer and foxes are often seen during a round.

The course is rated as one of the top ten most scenic courses in the country, and the green fees are surprisingly affordable.

4. McGregor Ranch and Museum

McGregor Ranch and Museum

Ranching has been an integral part of Colorado’s landscape and economy for more than two centuries. For many first-time visitors to the Rocky Mountain State, they are iconic attractions well worth a visit.

The history of MacGregor Ranch dates back more than 150 years, when the area was wilder, rugged and rural than it is today. It has been preserved to a near pristine state, giving guests a unique insight into the lives of the people who settled in the area long ago.

Guided tours of the museum and grounds are available in summer, and guests are welcome to explore farm buildings, homesteads, and fields on their own.

5. The Stanley Hotel

Stanley Hotel

The Stanley Hotel is one of Estes Park’s most historic and most visited attractions. Besides the impressive architecture, there are many rumors that it is haunted.

Before Estes Park became the tourist attraction it is today, the hotel attracted wealthy guests interested in staying in a luxury hotel while exploring the mountains, and the on-site Stanley Steamboat Automobile Museum is now one of the hotel’s most popular attractions.

The museum has a unique collection of historic cars and fire trucks, as well as a historic concert hall. Hotel and nighttime ghost tours are offered multiple times a day.

6. Estes Park Aerial Tramway

Estes Park Aerial Tramway

There’s no more dramatic and exhilarating way to take in the breathtaking scenery of Colorado than a ride on the elevated trolley, and adventurous visitors at Estes Park have the opportunity to do just that.

The Estes Park Aerial Tramway dates back more than 6 years and was the brainchild of a local elevator designer and engineer who was astounded by what he saw in a European mountain resort.

Tramways is a family owned and operated business that brings a large number of tourists to the top of Prospect Mountain each year. The season usually runs from May to September. Tickets are very cheap, and children under five ride for free.

7. Park Theatre

Park Theatre, Estes Park

The Park Theater is another of Estes Park’s most iconic historic attractions. It was built in the early 20th century when the impressive architecture was the order of the day.

Previous guests have described the theatre as stunning, quaint and charming, and according to some it is one of the oldest cinemas in the country.

While tickets aren’t as cheap as they used to be, they’re still affordable, and the refurbished and upgraded theater now shows premieres and independent films, as well as documentaries and live performances.

Snacks and drinks are available on-site, and tickets often go quickly to popular shows, so plan accordingly.

8. Outdoor Adventure Park

open air adventure park

Located on Prospect Village Drive in Estes Park, the open-air adventure park is a great way to exercise, burn those extra calories, and experience the great outdoors without leaving town limits.

The park features dozens of individual activities and is designed with visitors of nearly all ages and abilities in mind.

Rock climbing areas, rope bridges and obstacle courses are plentiful, and the park is staffed with experienced and safety-conscious staff to make sure everyone has a great day and goes home together.

While it’s a bit pricey, it’s conveniently located and is often one of the most memorable experiences of many tourist trips.

9. Notchtop Bakery & Cafe

Notchtop Bakery and Cafe

Notchtop Bakery & Café has been in business for over two decades and is a must-see for anyone looking to fill their stomachs without breaking the bank.

The Bakery and Cafe is located on East Wonder View Street in town and is open daily from 7am to 3pm.

Topnotch is known for its hearty breakfasts, including Tex-Mex dishes, steak and eggs, eggs benedict, and scrambled plates. For those with dietary restrictions, they also have gluten-free options.

Lunch items include burgers, gyros, soups and salads, and their freshly baked goods include donuts, bread and banana cream pie.

10. New Adventure Bike Tour

new adventure bike tour

New Venture Cycling Tours offers fitness and outdoor activity travelers a unique and exhilarating way to experience Colorado from their headquarters in downtown Estes Park.

For those traveling without their own cycling gear, New Venture has you covered; including a bike and helmet, as well as drinks, snacks and some of the most stunning scenery you’ll ever see.

Tour options range from simple and family-friendly excursions lasting just a few hours to full-day epic hikes in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

To be on the safe side, previous guests are advised to bring extra snacks, hats, sunglasses, cooler weather and rain gear.

11. MRT Rafting

Rafting, Cache La Poudre River

Rapid Transit Rafting is one of Estes Park’s premier outdoor adventure providers. They are fully licensed by the state’s Department of Parks and Wildlife, which means their main goal is to provide a safe, well-managed and totally unforgettable experience.

They’ve been in business for over thirty years and offer a variety of rafting options on the Colorado and Cache La Poudre rivers.

Experiences of various lengths and levels of difficulty are available, so no matter who you’re traveling with, there’s likely to be something suitable.

During high season, attractions fill up quickly, so consider booking early to avoid missing out on a truly majestic experience.

12. Ed’s Cantina

Ed's Bistro

Ed’s Cantina in Estes Park has been around since the mid 80’s. Since then, it has been a family-run restaurant that prides itself on serving up Mexican food with a Rocky Mountain twist to hungry locals and tourists.

Open daily, Ed’s has authentic Mexican decor, a relaxed setting, and helpful and attentive staff.

Most of the items on the menu are made fresh on-site every day, and some of their favorites include burritos, burritos, tacos, and meatloaf.

Rumor has it that their margaritas are to die for, reasonably priced and large portions.

13. Estes Park Memorial Observatory

Estes Park Memorial Observatory

Due to its expansive mountains and overall rural nature, Colorado’s skies are naturally much darker than many states. That means stargazing is top-notch for both amateurs and seasoned astronomers.

The Estes Park Memorial Observatory is a great community resource that is often overlooked by busy travelers, but is the perfect place for those interested in taking a guided tour of the universe.

The staff at the Observatory host a variety of engaging educational programs designed for all ages. Admission is completely free, although most guests choose to leave a few dollars per person.

14. Kind Coffee

cordial coffee

Kind Coffee on East Elkhorn Avenue in Estes Park is open daily from 6:30am to 6pm. They are locally known for serving only organic and fair trade beans from around the world.

Their hot and cold coffee beverages are their biggest draw, especially among those craving caffeine in the morning and afternoon, but they also offer a variety of non-coffee beverages such as teas, smoothies, juices, and shakes.

Many new customers are so impressed with their coffee that they pick up a bag of whole beans to take home. For those who show up on an empty stomach, they offer fresh pastries and baked goods.

Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Estes Park, CO
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